Friday, February 13, 2009

A Hot-Headed Bordeaux Meets Johnny Cash

Last fall, when I was working in a Bordeaux vineyard in the Fronsac appellation, I was surrounded by other vineyards (when I first looked at the address on Google Earth I was pumped- there was nothing but vineyards there)! So when I found a bottle of the 2003 Moulin Haut Laroque at the Wine Library for $26, I knew I was bringing home a bottle. The winemaker I was working for, Benoît, loved this wine and had several different vintages in his personal cellar. I got to try a few and got hooked.

As the bottle I bought was a 2003, I knew it was time to drink this baby soon. In 2003, Europe experienced an awful heat wave; because of all this sunshine and hot weather, the wines tended to be more fruity while they're young. Now, only 6 years later, you can tell that this vintage is not one to keep in your cellar. Due to the heat, it was almost as though the grapes were cooked- the 2003s I've tasted lack the usual tannic structure that a typical Bordeaux has. It is this tannic structure that allows Bordeaux wines to be kept for 10, 20, 30, 40 or more years.

When I poured the Moulin Haut Laroque into my glass, the color was a deep purple with orange on the sides. This is one indicator of age, as red wines turn more orange and brown as they grow older. The nose was complex and lovely, and I spent about 5 minutes swirling and having fun discovering the new aromas. There were obvious plums, violets, pepper, a leathery gaminess (think beef jerky), green peppers, and a crème de cassis thing going on. Every swirl opened up a new flavor. The mouthfeel was similar in that way, with plums and blackberries leading the way, changing to a drier oak/vanilla influence on the midpalate, and finishing with a cedar box, covered with leather and earth, as well as a lovely caramel note. Even though the alcohol is at 14.3%, you don't feel it. That being said, this is a one-glass wine, to be sipped and enjoyed. Although this is not a typical Bordeaux because of the weather that year, the winemaker, Jean-Noël Hervé, made one killer wine!

The 2003 Moulin Haut Laroque made me think of Sue in "A Boy Named Sue" by Johnny Cash. Because circumstances at his birth made him tough, he'll keep up that façade whenever made fun of his name. And believe me, he can whoop some ass. But when it comes to forgiveness, after fighting with his father, the "SOB who named you Sue", he comes to the realization that he only did that to make him grow up tough. Now, when it comes for Sue to have a son, will he repeat this tactic? No. Once was enough, he'll go for something a bit more classic like: "Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!" The Moulin Haut Laroque reminds me of this song because although the vintage made it different, it can still fight tough and is more multi-dimensional than some people might think. This wine might seem simply fruit-forward, but it brings a lot to the table and is a very well-made wine; this will keep you swirling, sniffing and tasting for awhile.

A view of Moulin Haut Laroque's vineyard. One secret to this wine? Lots of old vines.


  1. Hey! This is apj_bobswineguy. Watched your episode on WLTV a few months back. I was reading some comments on current episokde, clicked on your link and here I am. Re-watched the episode and I wanted your take on working harvest. I noticed that you seemed to have gravitated heavily towards wine (which I consider a good thing). I thought, originally, that the Fr Masters Pr was a Master of Wine Program haha.
    Anyways, CA is scary right now. Do you have any inside info on the business side of things there as far as wineries go. I would have to leave a fairly well-paying position to work harvest for 3 months. But, I really want to do it. I just don't want to be stupid. I'm past college age...alot!

  2. Hey, glad you found my blog! Sorry I didn't comment earlier, but I was in the middle of moving to Jersey! You should definitely work a crush if that's your passion- it really makes you realize what goes into a bottle of wine and makes you respect all the hard work that winemakers do every year so we can drink something with a meal. I'll get some more info for you.

  3. I never thought Johnny Cash and good wine would ever be mentioned together... Is Mad Dog 20/20 the "Cocaine Blues" wine? New age california wines are the "I Will Rock and Roll With You"?